Last updated on June 10th, 2019 at 09:34 pm
Performing live can be one of the most satisfying things to do as a musician. Not only do you get to showcase your talents to a live audience, you have the opportunity to connect with people through your performance.
Now, this all sounds like a fun experience, but do keep in mind that performing live is a completely different beast from performing music at the leisure of your own home.
Whether you are an experienced performer or a person who hasn’t performed once, these tips will definitely help you give your performance on stage.
These tips are targeted towards musicians, however, they can also be applied to any other type of performer.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Practice (The Right Way)
- 2 2. Engage with your Audience
- 3 3. The Art of Stage Banter when Performing Live
- 4 4. Creating the Best Song Setlist
- 5 5. Allow your Performance to Flow
- 6 6.Create Moments in your Performance
- 7 7. Be Prepared to Improvise
- 8 8. Don’t make your Mistakes Obvious
- 9 9. Choosing the Right Outfits
- 10 10. Don’t Drink any Alcohol
- 11 11. Don’t Drink or Eat too much in General
- 12 12. Always Prepare for an Encore Performance
- 13 Final Thoughts
1. Practice (The Right Way)
The first step to giving an awesome performance is to make sure you and your band are ready to perform.
As people always say “Practice makes perfect” and the more you practice, the more ready you will be to perform on stage.
It’s good to practice every day, and if you’re in a band, it would be ideal to meet up with them as much as possible to practice your set for your next performance.
However, this can be tough due to our everyday lives and schedules.
If you find it challenging to meet up with your band, then you and your band should try and dedicate at least one day every week to meet up for a practice session together.
On the other days of the week, make sure to get your individual practice in so once you meet up with the rest of your group, you’ll be more than ready to work on putting together your performance.
If you can practice the songs for your next performance enough to the point where it becomes second nature to you, you shouldn’t have any problems when performance day comes.
One of my music teachers always told us,
“When you don’t have to think about what you are playing, you’ll be ready to perform. Not only does this show that you are ready to perform that song, you’ll also be able to focus on giving your best performance.”
Now let’s talk about how you and your band can be as efficient as possible during your practice sessions.
What to do During your Practice Sessions
Just practicing the music you have in store for your next performance isn’t enough. You must also work on your stage performance abilities.
Remember, you aren’t just practicing songs for yourself, you are preparing to give a performance to all of the people who come to watch you on the day of your show.
During your practice sessions, make sure to practice performing the music, not just playing it.
Whether you are a solo performer or in a band, you should work on how you want to perform live on stage.
Ask yourselves, “How can we make our performance as entertaining as possible?”
Whenever you practice for an upcoming live performance, practice as if you were already on stage in front of an entire audience.
This will put you in the mindset of giving a good performance even if you’re just by yourself or with your group during your practice sessions.
You should be serious during your practice sessions, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
If you and your band stress out too much during the practice sessions, it will show during your actual performance.
So always take your practice sessions seriously and perform the music as if you were on stage. Just don’t forget to enjoy performing the music you are playing.
Practice vs Rehearsals
There’s a difference between your practice sessions and your rehearsals.
When you are in your practice sessions, your main focus should be having everyone in your band ready to play the songs in your setlist.
During your rehearsals, you and your band should start putting together the actual performance.
Start planning out how you want your show to be once performance day comes.
Work out all the transitions for each song and start finding spots in your performance that would make a great moment.
Begin coordinating your movements for when you’re on stage so when you are performing live, you’ll have an idea where you should be and what you should be doing.
Think of your rehearsals as “mock performances,” a time for you and your band to get an idea of what it will be like actually performing your set.
2. Engage with your Audience
Engaging with your audience during you are performing live will allow you to connect with them on a deeper level.
It’s like giving them an open invitation to your world while performing on stage.
The more engaged your audience is with your performance, the more energy there is from the crowd.
You and your band can work off this energy to give an even more incredible performance.
It can also make the environment less stressful, allowing you and your band to enjoy the overall performance while you’re on stage.
How to Engage with your Audience
When performing live on stage, it’s easy to get lost in your music. When this happens, you might forget about the audience entirely.
Here’s what you can do so that doesn’t happen:
Make Eye Contact with your Audience
Now I’m not saying that you have to make eye contact with every individual person in the crowd, which is practically impossible depending how big of an audience you have watching.
What I’m trying to say is don’t forget to look away from your instrument and look at the crowd once in a while.
To the people in the crowd, that would be enough engagement to reconnect them with your performance because you are acknowledging the fact that they are there.
From their point of view, it may also look like you’re looking straight at them.
Create the illusion that you can see every single person in the crowd even if you can’t.
Communicate with your Audience
Don’t forget to communicate with your audience.
Before you perform, introduce yourselves right in the beginning and start engaging with the crowd.
When transitioning to your next songs, don’t just go straight in and start playing, conversate with the audience. We’ll talk about this more in the next section, but don’t forget to use those small breaks in between songs to engage with your audience and reconnect with them.
Find ways to allow your audience to perform with you.
Maybe invite them to sing along if you are performing a song that everyone in the crowd knows.
Even as simple as having your audience clapping along to the beat will make them feel like they are a part of the magic that is happening on stage.
And the last thing you should never forget is to thank your audience for coming to your show at the end of your performance.
They could’ve spent their time anywhere else, but they chose to watch you perform so the least you can do is thank them for their support.
Now, this leads us to our next tip for performing live.
3. The Art of Stage Banter when Performing Live
Stage Banter is when you talk to your audience whether it be at the beginning of your performance, in between songs during transitions, or even at the closing of your performance.
Having good stage banter when performing live can really set you apart from different performers.
It helps establish a relationship with your audience while also building a level of trust with them.
You will also show your audience that you care about them.
When you stage banter, here are some things you should keep in mind:
Have a Solid Introduction
Make sure you introduce yourself and your band right from the beginning so everyone in the crowd knows who you are.
Let them know where you’re from and give them some background information about you and your band.
Try to talk about something that is relatable to everyone in the crowd. Maybe something about the city that you’re all in or something about the venue that you’re performing at.
Being able to relate to the crowd, in the beginning, can set your performance on the right track.
This will all come with experience, but try your best to sound confident.
Whenever you stage banter, don’t be hesitant. The more hesitant you sound, the less natural you sound and you may find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation, for both your band and the audience.
If appropriate, think about using big body movements to get the crowd’s attention.
Don’t forget to make eye contact with the crowd and have good posture while you speak.
Remember that what you say while you’re on stage is just as important as the music you perform. Choose your words carefully and be confident when you talk.
And don’t forget to be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else and learn how to be confident in the person you are. This will overall help you look more confident during your stage bantering while making you sound natural and unforced.
Keep it Nice and Short
Talking and engaging with the crowd can be very effective at making your performance more entertaining for everyone.
However, it can be a problem if you let it go on for too long.
Instead of telling the entire backstory of your band or songs in between transitions, just bring up important key details.
For your Band:
- Where your band is from
- How long you’ve been together
- A “short” funny story
- Other “short” stories that are relatable
For your Songs (Transitioning in between songs)
- A “short” description of what your song is about
- Who or what the song is dedicated to
- The reason why you wrote the song
- If covering a song, talk about the reasons why you like the song
Try to not to let it drag on for too long. If you can get your message across in fewer words, then go for it.
If people want to know about your entire backstory, you can save it for after the performance when you mingle with the crowd off stage.
Have Fun Stage Bantering
The best way to get the crowd going while you stage banter is to have fun doing it.
When you’re having fun engaging with the crowd, it will help create a fun environment for everyone in the venue.
Don’t be so tense while you’re up there talking to people. Loosen yourself up and enjoy conversating with the crowd.
Here’s an example from my band when I was introducing the next song. It got the crowd laughing and more engaged with the performance.
Closing your Performance Properly
When you’re at the last song of the night, make sure to thank the crowd for attending.
This could be your last opportunity to leave a good impression on them so make sure what you say counts.
Talk about some future projects you are working on or where your next performance will be.
If you can make the audience laugh, go for it.
Try to get the crowd involved with this last song so everyone can have a good time.
Remember to let everyone know that you appreciate them for attending and don’t forget to mention who you are again one more time so they won’t forget your name.
4. Creating the Best Song Setlist
The songs you select can determine the success you will have in your next performance so make sure to be smart about your selection.
Things to Keep in Mind when Selecting Your Songs
- What type of audience will be watching you at this next performance
- Where is this performance going to be (Outside or Inside)
- What type of feel are you going for
- How the songs transition with each other
- Is there any theme you wanted for your setlist
- How long will your entire performance be
- What is the length of each song you select
- How can I use the stage to perform each song
Creating your song setlist can be both a fun experience and headache.
When you’re building a setlist of songs for a performance, make sure to meet up with your band and put it together as a group. (This doesn’t apply to solo performers)
If you are a solo performer, it wouldn’t hurt to get some opinions on your setlist from your family, friends, and anyone else who is willing to help you out. (This would also work if you’re in a group/band)
One of the most important things to keep in mind when building a setlist of songs is who is going to be your audience for that performance.
Will they enjoy or hate the songs that we are selecting?
Are the songs that we are selecting appropriate for this venue?
Also, make sure that the songs you select fit the environment that you’ll be performing at.
If it’s inside, will a drum-heavy song be too much for the venue?
If it’s outside, will there be any outside noise that affects how our songs will sound when performing live?
And the last thing I wanted to talk about regarding setting up a song setlist is how the songs transition with each other.
Is it possible for us to transition smoothly from each song in our setlist?
Is it possible for us to do some creative and fun transitions that fit the songs and our overall performance?
Planning out your transitions early on will save you all from a lot of headaches as performance day nears.
5. Allow your Performance to Flow
A performance with a good flow will look and sound natural.
Try not to have any sudden pauses throughout the entire performance. This also means no silent moments unless appropriate.
I’ve seen many bands have pauses in between each song instead of smooth transitions, which would disrupt the flow of the entire performance.
While you’re on stage, just keep in mind that you are there to entertain. Whether you’re playing music or your band members are tuning their instruments for the next song, always find a way to entertain your audience.
“A performance that flows well will never take an audience member out of the realm that is being created on stage.” -Jake L.
Whoa, that was deep…
But on a serious note, if your audience realizes that there are slight pauses or gaps during your performance, it could affect their level of enjoyment with your show.
How to make your Performance Flow
- Make sure to have transitions within your set
- Have all equipment set up properly before you start the performance
- Tune all of your instruments accordingly
- Don’t stop performing, even if you make mistakes
- Involve the audience (Ask questions, invite them to sing along, stage banter in between songs.
- If you run into technical problems, distract the audience with some conversation
- Focus on giving an excellent performance
- Improvise and adapt to the performance, the venue, and the audience
The flow of your performance is just as important as everything else you do on stage, so always keep it in mind when you are performing live.
6.Create Moments in your Performance
People don’t go to live performances and concerts just for the music.
They go for the experience, the sense of belonging, and the moments that are created.
Finding out where you can create certain moments within your set can be done during your rehearsals.
If your setlist has a good variety of songs, there’s also the potential for creating memorable moments.
For example, if your first few songs are high energy, throwing a slow song in the middle of your set will catch people off guard. This is a situation where there is potential for your band to create a moment.
The tempo change will grab the attention of the audience, making them more inclined to listen to the slow song.
This type of transition sets up the slow song to have more of an impact on everybody in the crowd by making them more aware of it.
You can then set up an emotional moment with the audience because everyone will be focused on the song, even though it’s slower paced.
The change may also peak their interest more for the entire performance because now they may not know what to expect.
There are many opportunities for you to create moments when performing live. Whether it be filling the entire venue with energy or making everyone cry their eyes out, creating moments during your performance will have people in the audience feel fulfilled.
7. Be Prepared to Improvise
I can’t tell how many times I’ve needed to improvise on stage during live performances.
Not only has improvising saved me from a long night of embarrassment after forgetting the lyrics of a song or the chords while playing the guitar, it also helped me give an even more real and entertaining performance.
Just think about it, we can find ourselves improvising in many different situations in our everyday lives. Sometimes things just happen unplanned so we have no choice but to improvise on the spot.
The key thing here is that it’s natural.
When we’re on stage, we could set up an entire set filled with choreography that each band member will follow throughout the entire show. However, this could take away some of the naturalness from the performance.
All of the subtle things that we improvise on stage, whether it be walking over to your drummer to jam out, or pointing the microphone to the crowd when you hear them singing along can add extra performance points for you and your band.
You and your band will have fun and the audience will love it.
And if something does go wrong on stage that wasn’t planned, we may have to rely on our improvising skills, no matter what level of improvisation you are capable of.
If you and your band are prepared to improvise and have been working on it before the show, you should be able to face any problems you run into during your show.
Even though improvising is a very important skill to have and can make your performance look more natural, going on stage with nothing prepared is just asking for a bad show.
Relying solely on improvisation could lead to a disastrous performance, so make sure to go in with a plan and improvise when appropriate.
8. Don’t make your Mistakes Obvious
Pulling off a perfect performance would be the ideal goal, but it most likely won’t happen.
Everyone makes a couple of mistakes while performing on stage, it’s just a part of the nature of performing live music.
Whether your mistake is big or small, you never want to make it obvious to everyone in the crowd.
Chances are, they haven’t even noticed that you or someone in your band messed up.
Avoid making any indication that someone made a mistake during the performance.
Just stay cool and keep playing.
9. Choosing the Right Outfits
Having the right outfits for your performance can be very good for your stage presence.
I’m not saying you have to go out and have matching costumes but having outfits that compliment the overall theme you are going with for your performance will add to your show.
Also if you and your other band members have outfits that fit well with each other, it could help with the overall group synergy.
Make sure the outfits you all decide to wear are appropriate for the venue you are performing at while still maintaining the image you want your group to display.
It’s an element that some bands tend to forget about because they are so focused on performing.
Remember that performing live isn’t just about the music, you also have to keep in mind how you can be visually appealing to your audience.
10. Don’t Drink any Alcohol
You’re about to perform live on stage and the nerves are starting to kick in so maybe it’s a good idea to have a couple of drinks to calm yourselves?
Performing live while intoxicated, even if it’s just a little can have horrible effects on your overall stage performance.
Whenever you are performing live, it’s good to have the right mindset and focus throughout your entire show.
The more drinks you have, the less focused you may be on stage.
It also takes away from your overall professionalism which may affect getting any future gigs, at least at the current venue you are performing at.
You wouldn’t go to your job drunk, would you?
Another thing to think about is how all these drinks can affect your bladder.
It’s a funny thing to talk about, but if you have to use the bathroom every 5 minutes while you’re on stage, the overall flow of the performance will be ruined and your audience may become frustrated.
Save the drinks for after your show when you go onto the floor to mingle with everyone and focus on giving the best performance you possibly can with the right state of mind.
11. Don’t Drink or Eat too much in General
Speaking of drinking, even drinking too much water could become a problem.
A lot of performers tend to drink a lot of water before and while they’re on stage.
It could be their reaction to the nerves, but it may not be a good idea.
It is important to stay hydrated when performing live, especially if you are a singer, but drinking too much can lead you to have to go the bathroom during your set.
Once you are on the stage, there are not too many opportunities for you to go and empty your bladder.
Eating too much food right before you perform could be a bad idea too.
You run the risk of upsetting your stomach if you eat something that doesn’t mix well with you.
Also, keep in mind that you’re probably already starting to feel the nerves kicking in as you walk on stage.
Avoid anything that can distract you from giving your best performance before you perform.
If you need to drink water, just drink the necessary amount and try not to go overboard.
Pace yourselves and focus on performing.
When performing live, just have the mindset that you can’t leave the stage for whatever reason while you’re up there.
Everyone know’s their bodies better than anyone else so just don’t exceed your limits when it comes to drinking fluids and eating food right before you perform.
12. Always Prepare for an Encore Performance
You did it! You made it to the end of your show and you gave a spectacular performance that everyone loved.
Everyone is ready to get off stage and relax for the rest of the night, then all of sudden you hear the crowd chanting,
“Encore, encore, encore!”
Your amazing performance has left the crowd wanting more!
This is great and all but if you have nothing prepared for an encore, it can be a complete nightmare. (Based on my past experience)
Always be prepared to give an encore performance because you’ll never know when you’ll be asked to.
Don’t stress too much about it and have some fun songs prepared for your encore.
This could also be the last opportunity for you to engage with your audience.
Try to get the crowd involved with your encore performance.
End on a high note and don’t forget to thank everyone again for being an amazing crowd.
Well, there you have it.
These are 12 important tips for performing live.
I’ve constructed all of these tips based on my past experiences in the hopes that it will help any fellow performers.
The last thing I want you to all keep in mind is that you should have fun when performing live.
After all of the hard work and stress that comes from preparing for a live performance, we have to remember to have fun while we’re on stage.
Performing live music is a great experience for any musician.
Whether it’s a big performance or a small one, always strive to entertain your audience to the fullest.
If you want to learn more about getting gigs and other music jobs for musicians, check out my article on The 5 Best Part-Time Music Jobs for Musicians